When the LA Rams selected undersized defensive tackle Kobie Turner in the third round of the 2023 NFL draft, it looked like an attempt to recreate the steal they got with All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The latter is arguably the most dominant defensive player of his generation, but there were doubts about Donald when he entered the pros in 2014 for similar reasons.
Most of those doubts concerned Donald's apparent lack of size for the interior of the trenches. Doubts about the 6-foot-1, 280-pounder were quickly dispelled in spectacular fashion.
Turner, all 6-foot-2 and 288 pounds of him, is taking a similar route to stardom. Granted, he's not the game-wrecker Donald is, nor is he ever likely to be, but Turner is proving disruptive in multiple ways.
Many of those ways involve how Turner is wrecking running plays at their source. Encouragingly, he's also beginning to flash as a pass-rusher in the ways Donald has for years.
3rd-round pick is a force against the run
One of Turner's best plays against the run occurred during the 17-16 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 11. As Blaine Grisak of SB Nation's Turf Show Times highlighted, Turner simply shrugged left guard Damien Lewis (68) aside and engulfed running back Travis Homer.
Making plays against the run has become a happy habit for Turner. The former Wake Forest standout has 4.5 run stuffs to his credit, according to ESPN.
Turner's ability to beat blockers and get into the backfield isn't just derailing opposing ground games each week. Those same traits are also making him an asset in passing situations.
Kobie Turner's unleashed as a pass-rusher
He only has two sacks through 10 games, but Turner is beginning to unleash game-changing qualities as a pass-rusher. Qualities like acceleration at the snap and impressive closing speed on the quarterback.
Both of those things showed up on this partial takedown of Seattle quarterback Geno Smith in Week 1, highlighted by the Pro Football Journal.
For the season, Turner has notched six pressures, two hurries and a QB knockdown, per Pro Football Reference. There's room for more, but Rams' defensive coordinator Raheem Morris has to be happy about what he's getting from Turner.
What Morris is getting is another gifted athlete at D-tackle, whose speed and agility are comparable to Aaron Donald's agility. As AP reporter Greg Beacham stated after a Turner highlight reel play:
"Kobie Turner can really run for a big dude. He chases down a screen pass and forces the Seahawks to punt."- Greg Beacham
Keeping Turner and Donald together at the heart of the trenches gives the Rams potentially the most dynamic interior tandem in the NFL.
Kobie Turner and Aaron Donald double act should scare opponents
The benefits of two game-wreckers for offensive lines to worry about is immeasurable for the Rams. Opponents don't have enough blockers to double both Donald and Turner, without leaving somebody else free to make a play.
Choosing who to double seems like an easy choice. Yet those who put a crowd around Donald are finding out Turner will make an impact. Like he did on this play in the return game against the Seahawks, per Grisak.
As Turner starts to warrant more attention, Donald will inevitably see more one-on-one matchups. It's a win-win for Morris and the Rams.
Speaking of wins, it's probably time to declare the '23 draft a victory for general manager Les Snead. Turner and second-round pick, guard Steve Avila, edge-rusher Byron Young, and prolific wide receiver Puka Nacua have all made the grade as instant playmakers.
Turner has a chance to become the best of the lot.
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